In a recently released report detailing web-based exploitation in the UK, it was found that as many as 4% of adults have at some point engaged with images of child sexual abuse on the internet. The report also states, “It would be fair to assume that no less than 5% of young men and 16% of young women receive unwanted sexual requests each year.”
A growing number of child sexual abuse images involve computer manipulation, meaning that the photos may not have been of a sexual nature when they were taken, but were later edited to include sexual content. Almost a quarter of images were taken covertly, without the knowledge of the victim.
Manipulated images are one way to circumvent laws around child pornography, as the images do not actually depict child abuse. While it is positive that these images are being used as a substitute to harming children, we recognise that distress can still be caused to families by manipulating images of children for others’ use. We advise parents to be vigilant when sharing photos of their children, to avoid having these images fall into the wrong hands. As children begin to use the internet independently, it is also important to discuss with them how to keep themselves safe and secure.